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Copyright © 1998 The Seattle Times Company
Posted at 10:58 p.m. PDT; Sunday, September 27, 1998

Huskers allow Huard little breathing room

by Eric Olson
Special to The Seattle Times

LINCOLN - On Washington's first play from scrimmage, Chad Kelsay got in quarterback Brock Huard's face and swatted a pass attempt high into the air. The Nebraska defensive end might have intercepted it had Huard not alertly jumped to tip the ball out of harm's way.

Regardless, the tone had been set.

"We just kept coming at him," Kelsay said in the aftermath of Nebraska's 55-7 demolition of the Huskies. "You saw some good things out of our defense today. It makes it easier when you get a good rush on the passer. You could see he wasn't comfortable in the pocket."

The Huskers wanted to shut down Washington's already anemic ground game. They accomplished that, allowing just 35 yards on 19 attempts through three quarters. By then, the game was far out of reach.

The second task was getting to Huard. The coaches said they didn't add many new wrinkles to their blitz package. Actually, the Huskers were able to apply substantial pressure on occasions when they played straight up.

The Huskers sacked Huard three times, but just as important, they got their licks in seemingly every time he released the ball.

"One of our main focuses has been to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, because there had been a lot of talk about us not doing that so far this season," weakside linebacker Julius Jackson said. "We accomplished that goal. We came out and proved our point."

Along the way, the Huskers forced six turnovers, and converted five into scores. For the day, Nebraska gave up 273 total yards, 176 through the air.

Huard was target No. 1.

On Washington's second possession, Kelsay forced Huard into an intentional grounding penalty that cost the Huskies 20 yards, moving them out of field-goal range.

On their third series, three Nebraska defenders were in Huard's face when he unloaded a pass that defensive tackle Jason Wiltz intercepted and returned to the UW 22.

On their fourth series, Jackson rendered Huard dizzy when he hammered him after Huard released a pass, and, just as the Huskies were threatening at the Nebraska 2-yard line, Erwin Swiney stripped freshman running back Willie Hurst and recovered the fumble.

On their fifth series, Kelsay sacked Huard for a 7-yard loss, and on the next play defensive end Mike Rucker and tackle Steve Warren sandwiched the quarterback just as he released the ball.

And so it went all day.

Jackson said it didn't take long to get into Huard's head.

"Within the first couple of hurries," he said, "the (Husky offensive linemen) started calling out my number. They were calling out all of our numbers, looking at us and getting frustrated every time because they knew we were coming."

At halftime, with the Huskers ahead 35-7, defensive coordinator Charlie McBride wanted to make sure his players' minds didn't wander.

"I've been in those games, both sides of it, where you go to sleep and don't get anything out of the game," McBride said. "Our kids came out the second half and really played well."

He added that Washington's performance probably was an aberration. "I don't think I ever saw them give up today," McBride said. "They're going to be a good football team before it's over."

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